Hurricane Debt Weakens to Tropical Storm Debt, but Experts Warn It's Still Debt

Hurricane Debt Weakens to Tropical Storm Debt, but Experts Warn It’s Still Debt

It’s been over a year since the last time I gave an update on the state of my own debt. Since we’re always dispensing our opinions from our seat on the divine acropolis at the crest of Mount Olympus, we like to be transparent about our own situations. So let’s check in!

As we’ve chronicled, Piggy and I paid off our student loans ahead of time. And we don’t have credit card debt, unless it’s part of a nefarious-but-prudent scheme to harvest points. When talking about my financial sitch, I love to describe myself as “debt free, except for my mortgage!”

Which, when you think about it, is kinda weird? Like describing a milkshake as “dairy free, except for the milk!” The milk is not a small or trivial part of a milkshake. It is eponymous! It’s basically the point of the thing!

And the mortgage is a big debt. The average American family has $16,000 in credit card debt (yikes). An average student’s educational loan debt is $34,000 (double yikes). But the median home price blows both those numbers out of the water at $227,000.

For most people, a house is the most expensive thing they’ll ever buy, and the largest source of debt. It’s the milk in the milkshake.

And if you were about to jump to the comments to erroneously claim that ice cream is the point of a milkshake, hold ya fakkin’ hahses, khed. I live in New England. Our milkshakes do not have ice cream. If there’s ice cream in it, it’s called a frappe.

I can’t tell you why. I don’t make the rules, I just abide by them.

Why the rush?

Right now, I’m throwing all of my family’s discretionary spending at our mortgage. There are basically three reasons for that.

  1. I really like the idea of being debt-free. It’s not a logical decision so much as a sssssspiritual one? I just love the idea of not owing anyone anything to live my life. Plus, if I had no mortgage to pay, it would free up $1,600 in my monthly budget. Think of how many Breyer Horses that would buy!
  2. Signs point to an imminent downturn in the market. Now seems like a crappy time to sink a bunch of excess cash into it. Yeah, it’s stupid to try to time the market—but it’s also stupid to tongue-kiss someone who’s visibly coughing and sneezing. Sue me.
  3. We’re stalling for time before we have to establish our next set of financial goals. You know how in middle school your goal was “get good grades”? Then in high school your goal was “get good grades”? Then in college your goal was “get good grades”? Until suddenly you were an adult and there weren’t any once-size-fits-all goals anymore? The same is true of paying off your debts. It’s a hard goal to achieve, but at least it’s an easy goal to set. Mr. Kitty and I need to figure out what comes next for us, and working on the mortgage gives us time to consider our options.

A major milestone

We just reached a major milestone: we now own half of our house.

We bought our house for a hair under $300,000, with a down payment of around $50,000, meaning we had a $250,000ish loan to pay back. And we now owe a hair under $150,000. Meaning we’re halfway there!

(Do we really own half of it? Nah. If we stopped paying the mortgage now, the bank wouldn’t come with blunted baby scissors to snip the kitchen and bedrooms off. It just feels better to think about it in those terms. Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.)

Here’s my mortgage payoff visualization from November…

Debt Visualization Now

And here it is again now…

And yes, since so many of you asked, we made it available for purchase. All proceeds go to my guinea pigs, who are eating their weight in carrots every fifteen minutes helping spread the good news of financial empowerment for those who can’t afford it.

More on debt repayment strategies:

Faster progress

We’re moving really fast. That’s 1,000% due to my husband’s new job, which I wrote about here. Basically, we were perfectly comfortable living on my income alone, making modest but steady progress on the mortgage. Until one day, he doubled our income out of fucking nowhere. I attribute this miracle to the power of Heart, the least understood of the Captain Planet rings.

We’ve intentionally upped our spending in a few strategic areas. For example, we decided to make peace with the idea of dining out or ordering food more frequently—up to once per week, compared to our previous once per month. We’re both busier, and sometimes we get home too late for home cooking. When we order a $20 pizza, we’re saving our sanity and putting money back into our local economy. Not too shabby!

We also decided to invest in a few quality of life things. We both signed up for new classes teaching new skills, and bought a bike to help us get more exercise. When we’re dining out with friends, we reach for the group tab more easily. Sometimes I leave a huge tip just for the fun of knowing it’ll make someone’s day easier.

All of that feels really fucking luxurious. We’re extremely grateful for our good fortune, and aware of the rare and potentially ephemeral nature of it. As we’ve written about before, unlearning a scarcity mindset is its own challenge. We’re slowly learning to become comfortable with reasonable indulgences.

… but in the grand scheme of things, we haven’t really adjusted our lifestyle. Mr. Kitty’s paycheck is going almost entirely toward the mortgage. Hence the lightning progress. (Remind me to bump the article topic “our heteronormative capitalist society incentivizes the breeding of new consumers by limiting economic stability to two-income households” higher up the list.)

What next?

Until very recently, I never appreciated this one particular way that debt can be a blessing: eliminating debt is a really easy financial goal to set.

Not accomplish, mind you! But set.

The amount you owe makes a firm and clear goalpost. Strategizing the best and most efficient ways to reach it often felt like a game. But when it’s done, an overwhelming number of divergent options open up to you. Understandably, stumbling ensues.

  • Why am I on this planet?
  • How much longer do I expect to be alive?
  • What can go wrong with the health of me and my family in that time?
  • With whom do I want to share my one and only life?
  • Where do I want to live?
  • What am I called to do?
  • Who am I called to do it for?
  • How much more money do I need, really?
  • Can I become comfortable with benefiting from a system rife with extremely troubling inequalities?
  • How will the economy change in my lifetime?
  • How will the planet change in my lifetime?
  • Why do I feel like I have to have all the answers to these questions, when most of them are fundamentally unknowable things I can only learn by moving forward, making mistakes, and learning from them?
  • What’s wrong with me that I hate making mistakes so much, even though I learn something from them?
  • Why do I still read the comments?
  • Why does inflammable mean “highly flammable?”
  • Where is Shelly Miscavige?
  • How do I fit a Divergent joke into the preceding paragraph that successfully communicates my general disdain for the preposterous world-building of Divergent without derailing the lead-up to this funny list idea?
  • Do the kids think I’m connected to the zeitgeist, or am I a decrepit mummy stuffed into a coffin filled with Old Memes and myrrh?
  • Why do I care what anyone thinks of me?

These are questions I will have to answer once I’m truly debt-free. Hachi machi!

Yeah, you can have it

In other words, I’m thankful that I still have so much debt to work through. It gives me time to think about <gestures to unresolved psychological clutter> all this junk. And I’ll be transparent about that journey, in hopes that one day all our readers can reach the same crossroads.

We had so many people write in to ask for my debt payoff graphic that I turned it into a downloadable worksheet. You can buy it here. Don’t worry—it’s cheap as shit and does all the math for you.

A few folks asked if we would do more, and as people-pleasing ex-Catholics, how could we say no?

Behold our newest downloadable! It’s the exact same idea as the debt repayment one, but this time it’s set up as a savings tracker! You can use it to track your progress toward any goal: an emergency fund, a place of your own, a travel opportunity, a home down payment, one of the lost Gardner paintings—sky’s the limit!

If you get it and start to color it in, we wanna see it! Please take a picture and tag us on Twitter @BitchesGetRich or Instagram @bitchesgetrichesofficial.

8 thoughts to “Hurricane Debt Weakens to Tropical Storm Debt, but Experts Warn It’s Still Debt”

  1. Thank you so much for the Captain Planet reference… bringing back my childhood one mostly forgotten cartoon at a time.. now if only kids these days would know the glory of popples!

  2. –Remind me to bump the article topic “our heteronormative capitalist society incentivizes the breeding of new consumers by limiting economic stability to two-income households” higher up the list

    GOD, YES, PLEASE – single chick here feeling like I’m only ever financially treading water at best and all the advice is geared towards couples (like my favorite, “If you’re too exhausted to cook instead of ordering in, make a deal with your partner to trade off nights making dinner!” which I saw somewhere and led to me almost throwing my computer out the window).

  3. In the last couple years I chose “maxing out retirement funds” as my financial goal. I maxed out my Roth IRA last year (and will again this year) but his year should be the first time I max out my SEP too!

    Mortgage debt is the only kind we have as well, and it seems to be more culturally acceptable to have this type of debt.

  4. For those of us without kids, after all debts (including the mortgage) are paid-off, any thoughts about life without any tax deductions?

  5. I love the list of existential questions. I tried to choose a favorite but couldn’t because they’re all so good.

  6. Wow, that is truly impressive speed! I’m doing this on my own and it takes aaaaages. I’ve hit 25% paid off but now I’m looking at: +3 years to 50% paid off, +3 more years to 75% paid and + another 3 years to fully paid off.

    Objectively that means I’m looking at 9 years until I’m DONE!!! … but that’s a long time. I’ve been amusing myself by rounding up my extra payments so I get nice round dollars as the amount due and I think that’ll shorten the time a tiny bit. And I’m making sure I enjoy life now even if it slows down that progress!

    Thank you for being transparent!

  7. I will certainly tell you, I think people need to do what works best for them… THAT SAID… we paid off our house early with no regrets. Now we know one of us could lose our jobs or we could both be self-employed, etc. and always have a home. That security means a lot to me as a paranoid person wanting to take risks (but I understand several people are not wired as tightly as me:)

    I love your list of questions worth facing down once you have more options in your life. From my experience, paying off the house wasn’t a significant milestone that lasted long. Hedonistic adaptation and comparison are real beasts to battle. However, being debt-free inspired me to start the blog (and this has been truly life-changing). I also look around and wonder why I have played it small so much of my life? Being debt-free gives me the confidence to dream bigger. Your post phrased it in ways I’ve never thought of before!

    Best of luck “timing” the market! I love watching your thought process.

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